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Suzuki SX4 1.6 SZ4 2WD

Click to view picture galleryDownsizing or not, buyers still
want vehicles with a design that
  has character. Small SUVs remain
  popular and Suzuki’s revised
SX4, a five-door hatch priced from
  11,640 and offering SUV looks,
  seems to be a practical option for
  urban adventurers...”

TWO-WHEEL DRIVE SX4 MODELS with a new 1.6-litre, 118bhp petrol engine have just gone on sale along with a new 'SZ' grading structure of SZ3 and SZ4. A 1.6-litre petrol SZ5 4x4 model will go on sale in April as too will a SZ4 88bhp 1.6 DDiS diesel two-wheel drive model.

A 133bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine option with front-wheel drive might also be offered but with 65% of SX4 customers currently opting for the 1.6-litre petrol unit, and with a 1.6 diesel unit about to arrive, there might not be enough demand to make it worthwhile. Talking of figures, of the 3,300 annual SX4 UK sales over 85% of customers buy the 2WD versions with the SZ4 trim level being the most popular.

In terms of exterior styling, the latest SX4 remains virtually unchanged except for a new and bolder design of front bumper, a new mesh grille and an 'edgier' style of 16-inch alloy wheels. Also retained is the core design concept of a tall, wedge-shaped with low rising waistline supermini-sized five-door hatchback with SUV styling cues such as flared wheel arches, side- and under-body protection mouldings and front and rear skid plates. However, under the skin the SX4's body is torsionally stiffer and there's upgraded noise insulation material, an improved transmission and, of course, the new 1.6-litre petrol engine.

Inside, the car has a generally improved appearance: a more modern instrument display, thicker carpeting and plusher trim. The SX4 is well equipped as standard with the SZ3 model offering six airbags, remote central locking with deadlocks, air conditioning, MP3/WMA-compatible CD tuner with eight speakers, four electric windows, driver information display and illuminated steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

Upgrading to the SZ4 model adds fog lamps, 16-inch alloy wheels, side-body protection and heated door mirrors. Petrol engine SZ4 models have an even higher specification with keyless entry and start, dashboard centre speaker and automatic air conditioning.

On sale in April, the top-of-the-range SZ5 model adds i-AWD (intelligent All Wheel Drive), 6-CD changer and rear privacy glass. Unfortunately the all-important requirement for a EuroNCAP five star safety rating — ESP or Electronic Stability Programme — is not fitted as standard.

On the open road the SX4 is neat and nimble — agile, in fact...”
Despite its overall length of 4,150mm and width of 1,755mm, the SX4 isn't particularly roomy but with its tight turning circle of 10.6 metres it is very manoeuvrable and easy to park in our modern day 'urban jungles'. With its SUV-style body protection it should shrug-off, at least to some extent, the careless knocks and scrapes our cars suffer from in car parks. As Suzuki says, the SX4 is ideal for 'urban adventurers'.

On the open road the SX4 is neat and nimble — agile, in fact — with a very precise steering response. However, the suspension is very firm, the ride is harsh and uncomfortable over poorer road surfaces and the expansion joints found on many UK motorways.

That noted, the latest SX4 does score well for its revised 1.6-litre, 118bhp/115lb ft petrol engine which offers 10% more power, 10% lower fuel consumption and 13% less CO2 emissions (down now to 143g/km).

The unit also features drive-by-wire throttle control as well as a new variable valve timing and variable intake system for enhanced driveability and response. A new cylinder block and head is also used, with extended inlet and exhaust valve lift. It powers the 2WD models with manual transmission from zero to 62mph in 10.7 seconds and on to a maximum speed of 115mph.

The 4x4 model due in April with the same engine has a 109mph top speed and a 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds. In combined cycle driving, the 2WD manual models return 45.6mpg while the forthcoming 4x4 is only slightly behind, returning 43.5mpg — a very respectable figure for a petrol-powered 4x4. During my test on busy South Coast urban roads, the 1.6-litre 2WD model returned a very impressive 44mpg.

The 1.6-litre DDiS diesel unit, sourced from Peugeot, delivers 88bhp and 159lb ft of torque at just 1,750rpm so that should also provide lively, flexible performance and strong fuel economy. Mated to a five-speed manual gearbox and driving through the front wheels, it achieves a commendable 57.6mpg (combined cycle) and CO2 emissions of just 129g/km. Nought to 62mph acceleration is achieved in 12.2 seconds with a top speed of 109mph.

The signature feature of the Suzuki SX4 4x4 is its i-AWD switchable, three-mode all-wheel drive system. An Electric Control Coupling Device allows the driver to select 4WD-Auto, 4WD-Lock and 2WD modes to suit driving conditions, and gives excellent traction on low grip surfaces. Both the diesel engine and the 4x4 new SX4s have yet to be tested by the UK media.

What's not to like? Harsh ride, no ESP as standard and some blind spots. Good reasons to buy one are many and include the smart looks with hatchback/SUV styling, well equipped, good price, impressive and fuel-efficient new petrol engine, agile for urban use and 4WD models have been good at tackling the rough stuff.

Suzuki has a loyal band of customers and their numbers are expanding — sales were up by 9.3% last year. They know a good, reliable, cheap-to-run, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin product when they see one and they like the friendly and efficient service Suzuki dealers seem to offer. The SX4 might not be dynamically the best or most comfortable supermini on the market but it ticks most boxes if an 'urban toughie' is what you want. — David Miles

Suzuki SX4 1.6 SZ4 2WD
| 12,255
Maximum speed: 115mph | 0-62mph: 10.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 44mpg
Power: 118bhp | Torque: 115lb ft | CO2 143g/km | Insurance group 6E